Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Midwinter blooms

It's the middle of July here on my side of the world – midwinter – and at first glance you can sometimes deceive yourself into thinking that there's not a lot happening in the garden, especially when it comes to flowers. But that's not really true. As it was a gorgeous winter morning that was headed for an almost perfect day of clear blue skies and a max around 22°C (72°F), I headed out into the garden for half an hour to discover the coolest midwinter flowers I could find here on this lovely warm day in Amateur Land.

First stop the poppies, of course. Open our back door in the morning and the first thing you see are the poppies. And until you wander outside you might be mistaken in thinking that there are just poppies and nothing else. This pretty person is a double. I'm getting all sorts of colours and forms from the same set of poppy seedlings, so poppies just keep on providing a delightful bunch of surprises as the weeks roll by.

Pam's in charge of poppy-picking for vases, and this is this morning's harvest, next to the phone in the hallway (in the low morning light).

Helleborus are called Winter Roses by some folk here, and while they're only vaguely rose-like they certainly do bloom in winter. To enjoy a hellebore in bloom you usually need to get your knees dirty. The flowers hang down, quite close to the ground. They are at their best in a garden if you can find a lofty spot for them (say, atop a ridge on some sloping ground), so you can enjoy them by looking up while standing on the lower level. Fortunately I had an entirely expendable pair of jeans on, and so these blooms are well worth the brown knees.

I made the silly mistake of planting my peas in more shade than I thought they'd get. I guessed incorrectly they'd receive about four hours a day when coming up in June, then the sunshine would increase around now as they got into serious growth. Wrong! They never got four hours back then, and they're barely getting four hours now, so I don't think I'll get much of a crop. Live and learn! At least there's a few pea flowers, and I'll hopefully get a little crop, but I'll probably end up garnishing everyone's mashed potato with a single home-grown pea!

Across the path from the sun-starved peas, the alyssum is enjoying a good deal more sunshine and is as happy as can be.

In the ultra-shade not far from the peas, the tiny white cyclamen are in bloom. These midgets survive from year to year, and always put on an ever so slightly unusual show, courtesy of their odd shapes. Cyclamen are easily bullied by weeds and bigger neighbouring plants, so I don't feel quite so much their grower as I do their protector.

This one needs no protection whatsoever – in fact with grevilleas such as this 'Peaches and Cream', regular pruning does the trick. I have another grevillea nearby, a red-flowered one called 'Superb' which blooms virtually year-round, as this one does. While this grevillea is included here as a 'winter flower' it and its mate could easily get a guernsey in the spring flower, summer flower and autumn flower blogs, as well. And they're much visited by all sorts of nectar-eating native birds, too.

These little yellow puff-balls of wattle bloom are the very first flowers to appear on the groundcovering Acacia baileyana that makes a spectacle of itself in my front garden. It should be in full bloom by the weekend, I hope, but the show is usually over in a few weeks (depends on the weather how long it lasts).

I might as well include this photo of the next spray of orchids well on the way, as the early-flowering orchids are just finishing now, and looking a bit tatty, while these late flowerers should nevertheless still make it onto the 'winter flowering' list.

For the record, these are the early guys, which are a maroony-brown colour. They're at their best in June, and almost all of them end up in vases inside, where they last for weeks.

And also for the record, this photo of the later-flowering pinky-white ones is of course from last year, but I thought I'd toss it in just to show the two types of orchids which bloom here at either end of winter.

Finally, I'd like to finish off with the winter 'flower' I most regret not growing this year, and which I definitely plan to grow next year. Pretty broad beans, from last year's crop. Superb flowers, wonderful vegetables too. Why I didn't grow them this year is all about having not enough space for everything I'd like to grow, and that's something most keen gardeners know all about.

While only a few of our winter's days are as lovely as today's has been, when Sydney decides to put on a pearler of a sunny midwinter's day it somehow feels more special, maybe because the sun-warmed days are still bookended by crispy cold nights. A perfect day for getting outside and enjoying everything the garden has to offer.


prue said...

Those are some lovely midwinter blooms! I particularly love the orchids. We have had a few sunny days in gloomy grey Melbourne so hopefully our blooms will also come out to play. All the best.

Melinda said...

The midwinter blooms look beautiful!

On another note, would you mind me asking you about Marrickville and surrounds as a place to live? I'm sorry to ask on your garden blog. My partner and I are considering the area but we don't know any residents that can give us their opinions about positives and negatives.

Thank you

Jamie said...

Good luck with the orchids, Prue!

Hi Melinda: a blog reply box is as good as any a spot to praise Marrickville! We've been here in Marrickville for 18 years and love it, and as a result several friends have moved here over the years and they're enjoying living here too. It's a real mixture of people of all ethnic backgrounds here, but when it comes down to it they're all just family people, so I find it generally peaceful and friendly. I work from home and go for walks around Marrickville every day, and I never come across any hassles, apart from some truly dreadful drivers not respecting pedestrians!

Positives: good transport links, house prices medium ($500-$750K should get you something good), lots of good cheap restaurants, interesting varied community, good vibe on the streets. Great food shopping for Asian, Greek, Portuguese ingredients, but poor for Italian stuff (we still go to Leichhardt for that).

Negatives: aircraft noise in some areas, traffic noise in other areas, so you need to pick your streets carefully.

Places to look: I live in the sought-after 'Warren' part of South Marrickville, and it's a good area to start looking in, but it is more expensive than other spots. Some other parts of Marrickville are really lovely, too, such as expensive South St and David St, but the closer you get to Enmore (the area around Newington College), the more the aircraft noise will affect you. Stay away from busy main roads like Illawarra Road, Livingstone Road and Wardell Road. They're all noisy. Friends of ours just bought a house in Pine Street, which we had never heard of, and it's a fab, wide avenue, really nice. So there are lots of nice streets to choose from. Dulwich Hill is well worth looking at as an area, too.

Melinda said...

Thank you Jamie, for all that info, especially about where to look in terms of streets. I grew up in Castle Hill, out in the Hills District and now in North Sydney, so don't know much about the Inner West area, though I have liked it on the occasions I've visited.

Just one more question if that's OK, I assume fresh produce is easy to come by, such as Asian veg as you've mentioned. We do a weekly shop at a local Woolworths to get the staples. In the Marrickville area, is there a Woolies or Coles with easy parking/access?

Jamie said...

Melinda: yes, there are two Woolworths supermarkets here. One is within about 200 yards of my place in South Marrickville (so handy!), and the other is on the other, north-eastern side of Marrickville, in a major shopping centre called Marrickville Metro. Both have plentiful parking. The Metro Woolies is huge (and Marrickville Metro also has Aldi and lots of other retailers, so it's pretty good).
And also in the centre of the main Marrickville shopping centre is a private independent supermarket, Banana Joe's, which is very good for fruit and veg, but is constantly expanding its range of general groceries. I tend to shop there just as often as Woolies. It's just the right distance away for a healthy daily walk for me, but it has good rooftop parking as well.

If you're a refugee from the Hills, you'll find that lots of other 'refugees' from other Sydney suburbs have settled in here in recent years. Marrickville is a nice cross between being inner-city and being suburban. It's not super-crowded like Newtown, as the blocks of land are a bit bigger (I moved here from Glebe in 1990, specifically so I could get some land to do some gardening, yet stay in the inner-west, which I love). But it's not way out in the 'burbs, either. It takes me about 20-25 minutes to get into the city by car, when I need to. And there are buses galore plus the train line, too, for daily commuting to work, if needed.

Good luck with the house hunting!

Melinda said...

Thank you Jamie, I really appreciate the information. We were worried about supermarket convenience but that sounds fantastic.

Now we just have to wait. We should have bought a year ago, there were so many places available. Now due to the homeowners grant and lower interest rates, there is nothing anywhere in our price bracket and they go so fast.

I would like to avoid an apartment as I too, would love a little patch to garden and no strata!